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Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Stroke in Dogs

With summer in full swing, walks with your pup in sweltering temperatures can be tough for both of you. The hot pavement can hurt her paws, and without the right precautions, the temperature can lead to heat stroke in your dog—and even yourself. Learn about the warning signs of heat stroke in dogs and how to prevent it!

What Is Heat Stroke?

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two things you need to be aware of when taking your dog out in high temperatures. Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat through their skin, but rather pant through their mouths or sweat through their paws to get rid of excess heat. With fewer ways to cool down than humans, they’re at a higher risk for both exhaustion or stroke.

Heat exhaustion occurs when your pup’s body temperature rises above her normal temperature, which is considered 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Over 103 degrees can be a sign of heat exhaustion and could mean your dog is on her way to heat stroke.

If your dog’s temperature reaches 106 degrees or higher, she could be at serious risk of heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause your dog’s heart to stop, result in shock, or cause organ damage like kidney failure.

That’s why it’s essential to take heat stroke precaution measures and seek treatment as soon as you see the signs of heat stroke in your dog.

Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

There are several signs of heat stroke in dogs, including:

Excessive Panting

Some panting is normal for dogs, but if you notice yours hyperventilating, panting constantly, or breathing faster than is usual for them, it could be a sign of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Dehydration 

Dehydration is dangerous on its own, heat or no. The signs of dehydration in dogs are:

  • Dry nose
  • Exhaustion
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lack of urine
  • Off-colored gums
  • Dizziness

Fever

As mentioned before, fever is definitely one sign of a heat stroke. Anything over 103 degrees Fahrenheit should be taken seriously. You can tell if your dog has a fever if her nose is dry and hot.

Elevated Heart Rate

A normal heart rate varies from dog to dog. Large dogs have slower heart rates, while smaller pups have higher heart rates. If it feels like your dog’s heart rate is elevated above their norm, it could be a symptom of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, especially if it’s combined with other warning signs.

Confusion

If your dog is exhibiting odd, out-of-character behavior, such as not responding to your call, she could be confused. This is another sign of heat stroke.

black dog sitting in black swing on playground

Lethargy, Weakness, or Loss of Consciousness

Dogs that have heat stroke may:

  • Be reluctant to move
  • Want to nap more than is usual for them
  • Have trouble standing up

If your dog collapses or loses consciousness, it could mean her heat stroke is exceptionally severe. She needs to see a veterinarian right away.

Other Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Some other signs of heat stroke in dogs are:

  • Excessive drooling, especially if it’s thicker or stickier than normal
  • Muscle tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Glazed eyes

Other Potential Heat Problems in Dogs

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke aren’t the only things you need to keep an eye on with your dog in hot weather. You should also be aware of these two potential problems:

  • Skin fold pyoderma
  • Paw pad burns

Skin Fold Pyoderma

Skin fold pyoderma is a dog heat rash that can affect canines with skin folds due to weight problems or genetics. The rubbing of their skin folds in hot or humid weather can cause the issue, which is both a rash and an infection. Itchy and uncomfortable, skin fold pyoderma can be treated with medicated shampoo. However, a visit to your vet is recommended, as your dog may need to be on antibiotics to treat the resulting infection, or you may be advised to use medicated wipes.

Paw Pad Burns

Before taking your dog for a walk out on hard ground, such as asphalt or concrete, put your hand on the ground. If you can’t keep your hand there longer than five seconds, it is too hot to walk your dog on. Doing so could result in paw pad burns and severe damage to your pup’s feet.

Instead, take your dog out on grass or dirt, or consider having her wear booties if she is comfortable with them.

Treatment of Heat Stroke

If you believe your dog is overheating or suffering from heat stroke, you should absolutely get her to a cooler place immediately. This can be shade, indoors, or your vehicle with the air conditioner on. As soon as possible, take her temperature with a rectal thermometer. If it is above 106 degrees or she is unconscious, take her to a veterinarian right away. You can call ahead to ensure the vet is ready for you when you arrive, as your pup needs immediate care.

Follow these steps to help her cool down:

  • Place wet cloths on her armpits, ears, paws, on her neck, and between her legs – Use lukewarm or cool water. Do not use cold water.
  • Give her small amounts of lukewarm or cool water to drink if she is conscious.
  • Encourage her to wade into a pool or shallow lake – Stay close and keep an eye on her in the water.
  • Place your dog in front of a fan.

If your dog’s temperature is higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit but below 106, monitor her to decide whether to take a trip to the vet. Every few minutes, check her temperature while applying cool towels and offering water. You should continue to monitor her even when her temperature goes back down to 103 degrees.

Vet Note: Whenever you’re concerned with your dog’s health, don’t hesitate to visit your vet. They can make sure everything is okay and give you advice about how to handle the problem. They can also confirm no heat stroke damage was done.

Preventing Heat Stroke

There are several ways to prevent heat stroke and even heat exhaustion before it becomes serious in dogs:

Limit Outdoor Exercise in Hot Temperatures

If it’s hot outside, limit your dog’s outdoor exercise. She may be sad about it, but it will be best for her health. Let her outside in the early morning or early evening when temperatures are at their lowest.

Or she could go for a swim or play in a sprinkler. Always make sure she has access to drinking water and shade when outdoors.

Do Not Leave Her in Your Car

Temperatures in a parked vehicle can become very dangerous very fast, especially for dogs. Never leave your pet in the car, even if you think it will be just a few minutes. Even when the temperature outside is only 70 degrees, it doesn’t take long for it to reach 120 degrees in a vehicle.

Know If Your Dog Is At Risk

Some dogs are at higher risk than others for heat stroke, including:

  • Thick- or long-haired breeds
  • Brachycephalic breeds
    • Pugs
    • Bulldogs
    • Other breeds with short noses or flat faces
  • Young dogs
  • Old dogs
  • Dogs with medical conditions, such as heart problems
  • Overweight dogs

Knowing the signs of heat stroke in dogs—and even the symptoms of heat exhaustion—may help you save your dog’s life one day. Prevention is key to stopping heat stroke from happening to your pup, so always take the necessary precautions before heading out for your daily walk or exercise. Extra water, an eye on the temperature, and the right planning in case of an emergency can make all the difference.

If your dog is experiencing heat stroke, get her to the veterinarian right away. We’re here to help. If you believe your dog’s temperature is elevated or she’s showing other signs of heat stroke, give Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital a call at 281-693-7387.

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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